Vera A. Solovyeva will speak in the Work-in-Progress Seminar on Monday, March 14 at noon. Her talk is entitled “The Museum’s Role in Sustaining and Revitalizing the Cultures and Traditions of Indigenous Peoples.”


Vera A. Solovyeva is Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Cultures of Conservation at Bard Graduate Center. She completed her undergraduate work at Yakut State University, and is currently a PhD candidate at George Mason University. Her research focuses on how indigenous northern peoples preserve and develop their cultures and traditions in a contemporary world that is rapidly changing due to factors such as globalization and climate change. Additionally, Solovyeva is interested in the process of how indigenous peoples recover lost knowledge, traditions, and rituals through the study of museum collections. In 2012 and 2014 she co-organized visits by the Sakha Republic’s (Yakutia) delegation to the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

In this talk, Solovyeva will explore the museum’s role in shaping community identities, specifically for indigenous peoples, focusing on the relationship between the American Museum of Natural History in New York and indigenous communities in Siberia. Historically, the role of museums was limited to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting objects from different collections and cultures. In recent years, however, museums have expanded their mission and made efforts to help sustain and revitalize indigenous cultures and traditions by engaging and educating visitors, as well as opening their resources to native researchers, craftsmen, and spiritual leaders. Museums have also begun to loan or even repatriate sacred ceremonial objects to their native communities. In doing so, indigenous peoples are not only able to recover and revitalize lost knowledge, but restore the links between current and future generations and their ancestors. This revitalization of lost knowledge is important to the identity and continuity of native peoples, as they consider themselves nations in the making..